Newspaper Takes California Congressman To Task Over Yosemite Criticism

A congressman who has harshly criticized Yosemite National Park staff for their work on a management plan for the iconic Yosemite Valley has in turn drawn criticism from one of California's largest newspapers.

Rep. Tom McClintock, whose district includes Yosemite, attacked park staff for drafting a plan that he maintains would "restrict and harass" visitors. Drawing the congressman's ire is a proposal by the park staff to remove the ice-skating rink in Curry Village, as well as the horseback riding concession in the valley. Bike rentals also would no longer be allowed if the proposal is approved, nor rentals of tubes for floating on the Merced.

But in an editorial this week, the Sacramento Bee said the Republican is merely "grandstanding" and that opposing the park's planning efforts would relegate the Yosemite Valley "to the current congestion and clutter. Reasonable Americans understand that Yosemite National Park has to address traffic, parking and camping in a methodical, sustainable way."

The draft management plan is intended to provide protection for the "outstandingly remarkable values" of the Merced River, which was designated in 1987 as a "recreational" river through the Yosemite Valley under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Two earlier plans the park drafted to address protection of the river were struck down by the courts.

In the most recent rejection, by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2008, the judges both directed the park staff to set a daily visitation capacity limit for the river corridor through the valley and quite clearly implied that the Park Service needed to consider reducing commercial activities that do not "protect or enhance" the Merced's unique values.

In noting that the Yosemite staff is reviewing 30,000 comments on the draft proposal, the newspaper said "McClintock should turn down the volume and let that process proceed."

Comments

Thank you, NPT, for keeping us all up to date on the Merced River Plan issues.

Also thanks to the NPT for a summary of the Sacramento Bee article. I agree with the Bee, the controversy surrounding the Yosemite Park Merced River Plan is almost 15 years old now. At some point some compromises are going to have to be made. There is something in the current draft EIS for the Merced River for everyone to like or dislike. In my own humble opinion, however, the current planning effort does address the court requirements of a comprehensive range of alternatives and a visitor capacity number for the Merced River corridor, like any of them or not. I do think the process has been open and its time now for the park to be allowed to move forward.

I think a quote from Barbara Moritsch's book "The Soul of Yosemite" is directly relevant here:

<<In Yosemite, the tail really does wag the dog. And the dog is big, and has many tails.

One could say the corporation wags the bureaucracy, the fund-raiser wags the recipient, and the neighbors wag the primary occupant. To further complicate matters, these tail-waggers all have considerable influence with political representatives—and the politicians always wag hardest of all.

If the last remnants of wildness in the Valley are to survive, the
National Park Service must regain control of its tail, and make decisions based on what is best for Yosemite itself. And people outside the Park Service who care about the Valley will have to make their voices heard over those who want to exploit its beauty.

The Organic Act (which created the National Park Service) does not direct the National Park Service to preserve parks as opportunities for economic gain. This benefit is ancillary to the purposes of parks.
Those who make money off the park can have a voice in, but should never drive, the Park Service’s decision-making processes.>>

Thank you Barbara for serving as Yosemite's Lorax